Most dogs that pull have learned to do so over a period of time. The longer they have been doing it, the harder it will be for them to change.
In most cases, a fresh approach is needed by introducing an alternative to the lead and collar – which is why at Very Important Pets we recommend the use of a harness.
Why should dogs not pull on the lead?
Excessive pulling on a collar and lead puts stress on your dog’s neck and the surrounding area (shown below). Over time, the repetitive excessive strain can cause long term damage to dog, in the form of cervical (neck) pain or respiratory issues. A harness is also a good option for dogs like pugs, who risk their eyeballs protruding from the sockets if too much pressure is put around their neck.
Training your dog to stop pulling
The following tips address how to stop your dog pulling on a lead, whether this is attached to a collar, harness or headcollar.
Before training begins, take your dog in the garden and attempt to wear them out. Having them slightly less ready to take on the world will help them to respond better to you.
Load your treat bag with tasty food and get your training lead ready. Ask your dog to sit calmly before attaching the lead. Reward calm behaviour at this early stage as you want to avoid teaching your dog to become overly excited every time you set out for a walk.
If your dog becomes wild with excitement, remove the lead from sight and walk away. Return to them in a few moments and try again. Once you have managed to put the lead on, it’s time to begin walking.
Walk slowly and encourage your dog to walk on a loose lead by rewarding them with food and praising them enthusiastically
If your dog pulls ahead, simply stop. Lure them back to your side with a piece of food and when they do this, feed and praise them again. This technique is very simple and uncomplicated – if your dog walks on a loose lead they get well rewarded and get to continue on his journey.
If they pull, the rewards stop and the walk is delayed. Most dogs learn the opposite of this, which is ‘the harder I pull, the quicker I get to the fun part’. Please bear in mind that dogs that have learned this over a period of time will need lots of help and encouragement in order to change the habit of a lifetime.
A dog’s natural walking pace is usually twice as fast as the average human’s. As a dog would not naturally choose to walk at such a slow pace, it’s doubly important that we reward them generously for something that they find difficult.